Owlets make their debut at Pascagoula River Audubon Center
Two baby barred owls taken in by an emergency rescue group are so young that they can't "hoo hoo" yet. They have squeaky little voices, as if they're telling their mother, "Feed me! Feed me!"
Both are just a few weeks old and can't feed themselves. Once they're able to catch their own prey — such as mice — they will be released into the wild, said Alison Sharpe of the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center.
The owls have joined some baby song birds — like mourning doves, a mocking bird and a cardinal — that the group is caring for until the birds can be released into the wild.
"This is just the calm before the storm," Sharpe said.
"Spring is the time that baby birds either fall from their nests or are displaced during outdoor spring cleaning and tree-trimming. People call us and we care for the birds until they can fend for themselves in the wild. We try, when at all possible, to release them into as close to the natural environment they were in.
"We make sure they have a better chance of surviving before we let them go."
The baby owls, also known as hoot owls, are so young they can't regulate their body temperatures by themselves. They're kept in covered containers so they can stay warm. When it's feeding time, workers cut up pieces of mice and use hemostats to put the food up to their beaks. The baby owls will be ready for release when they can catch their own prey.
"It takes a special person to take care of such a special animal," Sharpe said.
Barred owls sometimes sound like they're saying, "Who cooks for you?"
The birds and other wildlife turned over to the group are kept mainly by volunteers who stay at home. The baby owls, for instance, must be fed every three to four hours, she said.
Caregivers are advised to not talk to the wildlife or name them.
"Becoming accustomed to the sounds of humans can be very detrimental when it comes time to release them," Sharpe said. Also, families sometimes don't want to give them up once they're ready to return to their habitat, she said.
Volunteers also are caring for stranded mourning doves, a mocking bird and a cardinal.
Sharpe said there are different ways people can volunteer, even if they don't feel like they can care for wildlife. Volunteers are needed to handle phone calls and to pick up rescued wildlife and drive them to a temporary home. WCRC also has cage-building projects for holding areas suitable for different types of wildlife.
For details, call the WCRC at 228-669-2737.
The WCRC also accepts donations. You can mail a check to WCRC at P.O. Box 4424, Biloxi 39535, or give a donation via Paypal on its website, wildlifecareandrescue.org.